Seasoning Cast Iron in May 2011
- cowboyardee May 19, 2011 08:42 AM
I usually look for previous posts on a topic and then only make a new thread if there aren't any answering my question. But in this case, i have the opposite problem - there are too many posts on this topic, and it's impossible to sort them out. Here goes:
Basically, I finally caved and bought a lodge cast iron skillet - my much loved and unlikely-to-be-poisonous nonstick pans are starting to get a few scratches, and I'd like to save them for truly delicate foods. I have some other CI cookware, but nothing I've been too concerned with seasoning before.
At this point, I've smeared some bacon grease in it and gave it a little while in a 450 deg oven (not long - maybe 30 minutes). I've cooked bacon and steaks in it. I did not remove the crappy initial 'seasoning.'
My default 'guide' for seasoning CI is this post by Threegigs.
So, my questions:
1) Does that post represent the most recent and effective advice in terms of CI seasoning? Have there been any wildly successful alternative methods discussed recently that I've missed? (see question 3
2) Should I remove the tiny amount of seasoning I already have before going all out?
----2a) What's the best method for doing so? My oven has no self-clean cycle. Max temp 500. So do I put it under the broiler (mine is fairly strong)? To sand or not to sand? Is a brillo pad useful? Might a smoother surface help?
3) Did anyone have any success with the Cooks Illustrated flaxseed oil method? I heard about the seasoning flaking off, but wasn't sure if anyone had luck at lower temperatures or different pretreatments.
4) Are there any problems with bacon grease? Is salt an issue? Or the fact that I just have a bowl of it slowly turning browning at room temperature on top of the microwave? Should I use lard instead?
Thanks, and sorry for adding yet another CI thread.
The method in the linked post seems fine to me. There's more than one way to season a skillet and none of the methods are sacred. I've had good results thoroughly cleaning my pan of all previous seasoning (I only buy vintage) by scouring with steel wool and dish washing liquid, using whatever oil I happen to have handy (usually some form of vegetable oil) and wiping a very thin coat all over the pan, making sure to remove any excess, putting the pan into a cold oven (right side up or upside down, I haven't noticed a difference) and heating it to 500* for a few hours after it gets up to temp, then letting it cool completely in the oven. Not necessarily the "right" way and certainly not the only way, but it's worked for me and I've never had seasoning flake off regardless of how much wine I use to deglaze it. To me, the whole point of cast iron is to have decent cookware that is cheap and relatively maintenance free. There's no point in creating some aura of mystique around the seasoning process or turning it into a ritual anointing of oil that can only be done just so.
I don't care a bit about its mystique - hence my holding out on buying a CI skillet for years. I just want to know from anyone who has tried multiple methods of seasoning (or at least who has kept up with the dozens of threads on the matter) if one method is superior to the others. I have read enough to see plenty of reports of problems and difficulties getting that initial seasoning right and making it last, and I'd rather avoid that.
Using vegetable oil, how many coats do you apply, how slick is the resulting seasoning, and have you ever had it flake off?
I usually apply 3 or 4 coats. In most cases, I think I've used soybean oil.
The result should not be sticky, but its slickness will depend on the base material. I don't think a Lodge will ever be as slick as a vintage Griswold no matter what the seasoning method.
Also, the initial seasoning is not the deep black that is normally associated with a cast iron pan. It has some hints of amber and brown that have gotten darker and blacker with use.
I've never had seasoning flake off of my pans, and I'm not careful about it. As I said, I often deglaze with wine, I heat tomato sauce in them etc. and I've never had any problems. I also routinely clean with the green side of the sponge and some dish washing liquid and the seasoning doesn't come off. Granted, I don't cook acidic foods every day and I use plenty of oil in between.
The non-stick properties using this method have been great. I test each pan by cooking an egg in it after seasoning and they've all slid out easily.
I use very high heat all the time. In fact, I made turkey tenderloins the other day. I preheated the oven to 450* and threw my #6 pan in to preheat along with the oven. When it was up to temp, I put it on the burner on med/hi heat. Once it was hot enough, I seared all sides of the seasoned tenderloins and then put the pan and meat into the oven at *450 for ten minutes. That's how I make most cuts of meat and even burgers. I just vary the cooking time accordingly.
The pan does get some stuck on goodness right where the meat sears, and if I don't deglaze it, I just run it under hot water and scrub it off with a sponge and some soap. The base seasoning doesn't get disturbed at all.
I've gotten Griswolds in different conditions. All of them are Erie PA, small logo pans and they've all been very smooth. The best comparison I can make is the surface of an evenly worn brake rotor from a car. I've handled Lodge pans and they're not nearly as smooth.
I have never had any luck with vegetable oil. Always just gets gunky and sticky. I have had ok luck with crisco shortening though. My first pre-seasoned pan I baught, I just washed up and started seasoning over the top. It all flaked off. So I heated the pan on high heat in the oven and finished baking off the coatings, scrubbed and started again.
I have had the best luck using lard or bacon grease for seasoning. I once fried something in peanut oil and was pleasantly suprised and the smoothness from that. So I experimented with coating with peanut oil. Worked great, but you do have to use a higher heat to use it. Seems peanut oil has a high smoke point.
I don't use peanut oil anymore due to my grandbaby being highly allergic to peanuts.
So I just use lard. I smear it on very thin and bake in the oven at about 400 for about 45 minutes then turn the oven off and leave it in until it cools. Usually this is ok, but if the pan still feels slightly tacky, I just reheat again.
I don't like to leave in a hot oven to long for risk of baking off my coating. 400 seems pretty safe for me.
If I am in a hurry, I have heated the oven hotter than the 400, get the pan to smoking good then turn the oven off and leave it while I go on to work or bed. :o)
My CI seasoning methods is kind of like my cooking. Recipie ingredients and time to cook sometimes varies a little.
With my most recent CI skillet, I tried the CI flaxseed oil method. I did it every night for a week. It was kind of a pain, but having used it now for several months for everything from Cornbread to eggs to veggies, I think it is far superior to any method I've used in the past.
I have had no issues with flaking at all. But like how to roast a chicken or how to season a carbon steel wok there are probably several ways that will work. YMMV.
I followed this method:
Heat the pan in a 200 degree oven. Smear oil on and then wipe it all off. Then put it in the oven at 500 degrees for an hour and a half (the half hour is how long I let my oven preheat). Turn off the oven and let the pan cool inside. I did this every night for a week.
You have received many great advices already. I have, as other suggested, removed the original preseasoning surface and started from bare. I think that really depends on the condition of the original preseasoned surface. Sometime they are good, but sometime they are not. If the preseasoning surface is poor and everything building on top of it will be unstable -- much like if the importance of a primer paint. I removed mine using the self cleaning cycle. If you don't have one, then you can just try the highest temperature you can.
As for seasoning process, I prefer the higher temperature method, so mine is between 400-450 oC for 1-2 hours. The key to make sure you don't apply too much oil. Once I got a layer of seasoning on the cookware, I often do another stovetop seasoning. Stovetop seasoning will not able to reach the side of the cookware, but it will concentrate the bottom of the cookware which will be the most abused area. Stovetop seasoning is very fast because you can heat up the cookware much faster to a higher temperature. You can see exactly what is going on. The drawback is that you will see a lot more smoke and you will have to stand right there. Usually shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes.
For me it is degrees. And I forgot to say in my previous post, that I bake on probably 4 layers before I even try to cook in it. Then the first thing I do is bake cornbread greasing up my pre heated skillet with bacon grease. Something about baking southern style cornbread in a cast iron skillet, just tops it off. (for both the skillet and the cornbread)
Sometimes the first cornbread baked will stick a little. I just weight for the skillet to cool, scrub it out with hot water and a SS scrub pad, dry and bake on another coat of seasoning.
Then bake some more cornbread. We don't eat that much cornbread, but the birds, squirrels and the occasional wondering dog, love it!
I agree with Hardline, Lodge is never going to be like Griswold. Having said that, since you already own the pan ( and I do own some lodge along with my favorite Griswolds) I've found seasoning cast iron on a charcoal grill to work the best. Just get the charcoal going as if you were cooking, or wait until you are done grilling dinner and put your pan on and close the lid. I prefer to use lard to season my pans. Just leave the pan on until everything is cooled off. I generally just get it out the next day.
Lodge may never be exactly like Griswold, but it is still great. With use, they just get better.
I have a Lodge skillet and a dutch oven that I got new when I was first married 31 years ago. They are both worn slick as a button on the inside. I don't know exactly when they became so smooth, but has been that way a long time.(and I have not used the DO nearly as much as the skillet, but it is still nice and smooth.) Of course I have always used metal utensils and scrubbed with metal scouring pads. Gets my pans clean and helps to season and smooth out my pans. (also seems to help with the build up that can occur on the pan) Every time I scour and recoat my CI, I think of sanding and polishing wood.
I agree, there is something to be said for vintage CI. But I feel that way about a lot of old things.
So for those that don't have the time, money or desire to hunt for vintage, just grab one of the new ones at your local store and start cooking. Like me, you won't turn around twice and you and your new CI skillet will be considered "vintage".;o)
I own some Lodge CI that I use every now and then, but when I need non-stick performance I go with my vintage. I don't have the "time" to scour, scrape, grind and polish my CI for three decades to get decent performance, nor do I have the "money" to spend on something that is not functional for my needs. Especially when good, usable vintage CI is available at similar or lower prices than new. As far as "hunting" for vintage CI, thankfully nowadays it's as easy as going on eBay and buying one you like.
There's nothing wrong with Lodge CI for certain uses. Deep frying and baking no-knead bread comes to mind. But, the bottom line is that for all-around non-stick(ish) type cooking, the smoother surface of vintage CI takes seasoning better and provides a better cooking surface right off the bat than Lodge.
Oh it doesn't take 3 decades to make them non stick or even smooth. That is just how long I have had them. They have been smooth for a long time.
I have two lodge skillets that are less than 2 months old and they are totaly non stick. I scramble eggs in them nearly every day and they slide out onto my plate just like my old non-stick teflon.
I have been cooking eggs in them for weeks now.
I have some vintage CI iron too. My two newest skillets are just as non stick as my really old ones. Not as smooth, but just as non stick.
I just want to encourage those that don't have vintage, that the new CI cook and clean just as well.
I do it all the time. I am the one in the family that 'breaks' in the new CI for everyone else. They bring me the new, and I loan them my used ones until I get theirs just right. Then we swap back. Doesn't take long at all.
And sometimes I just let them keep my old ones.( That is if they are not the ones of sentimental value.) And then I just keep using the new ones.
That is how little of a difference I find them. (and I do fry everything in them and I never deep fry anything.)
But maybe that is just me.
Not sure what you mean by vintage CI taking seasoning better than the new lodge.
Do you mean the seasoning won't stay on the lodge pans?
I find all my CI takes seasoning the exact same way. Old pans, new pans, lodge, or some other brand. They are all CI and season just the same for me.
The only glitch I ever had was when I tried to season over the seasoning that came on a new pan. Didn't stay on. I baked it off and scrubbed down to the bare metal and began again. No problems from then on. Now whenever I get a pan, old or new, I scrub it down to the bare metal and start seasoning a new.
Again, that is just my experiance.
As for hunting vintage CI. I do it because it is fun and takes me down memory lane. Not because I think they are any better. I just like the history behind them.
I to this day, regret rescuing out of the trash the skillet that my grandmother in-law wore a hole in. I was watching her fry chicken when a hole come in the bottom of that cast iron skillet and grease ran out all over her old stove. She took the chicken out and threw the skillet with the hole away and grabbed another and just kept cooking.
I would love to have that skillet hanging on my wall right now.
I totally agree with you on Lodge cast iron, dixiegal. I have a 3-month-old Lodge skillet that, after cooking steak / fatty fish in it maybe 10 times, reached a beautifully non-stick state within 2 weeks. I've made scrambled eggs, fried rice, and other sticky foods in it with only about 1/2 teaspoon of oil. The only clean-up needed after cooking these foods is wipe with paper towel.
I also own a Griswold cast iron skillet that has come to my possession for about 2 months. Honestly, I think Lodge's performance is on par if not just a bit superior. I found that Lodge's pre-seasoned pebbly surface allows seasoning to build up faster. And because Lodge skillet is thicker, it actually retains more heat than Griswold and is a better choice for searing steak, etc.
Yes, Lodge isn't as pretty as Griswold because it's not smooth. But functionally speaking, it is fantastic for giving nonstick performance. And Lodge skillets will look better with usage. Even though my Lodge is only 3 months old, I'm already seeing the cooking surface beginning to smooth out in the center.
This hasn't been my experience with the few Lodge pieces that I own, but maybe I gave up on them too soon. Even though the pre-war Griswold cast iron is higher quality than much of what is produced today, there is definitely something to be said about a thicker pan, as evidenced by the condition of my latest eBay'd Griswold (#9 for $20):
I guess I may as well update for anyone interested.
I've opted to go the flaxseed oil CI method.
First off prep: I started with a scrub with steel wool. Next, the skillet went under my broiler (fairly powerful electric) for 45 minutes, propped very close to the element, turned once. After cooling and another quick wash, I was unconvinced the old seasoning and gunk from what little action the pan had seen were gone.
So I scrubbed it with some wet/dry sandpaper (220 grit, I think). That worked great for taking off seasoning and gunk (sounded awful though, nails on chalkboard awful). But you guys had made me wonder whether a smoother pan surface would be better. And the sandpaper was not grinding fast enough for that. Well, I busted out a small power sander and gave the bottom of the pan a few minutes with it. Didn't smooth out the surface entirely, but did take off the bigger bumps. Probably would have taken a good while and more sanding pads than I had to make it completely smooth. So the effect is probably in between a normal Lodge and one of the beloved Griswalds. Will it be an improvement? I have no idea.
Another good scrub (thoroughly - the black dust from sanding is hard to completely remove from the pan). Dried the pan and then about 30 minutes in a 200 deg oven, as per the directions. Took it out, and immediately applied flaxseed oil with the pan just hot enough to burn you a bit. Now, my flaxseed oil is what I got from my local crappy supermarket - it has a bit of vitamin E and rosemary essence added to it. Will this effect the outcome? Hard to say, though so far so good. Why bother with this elaborate multi-day process just to potentially f*** it up by being too lazy to get pure food grade flaxseed oil? That's just the kind of person I am.
I followed the instructions to wipe off every last detectable bit of the oil after application but before returning to the oven. I really had to fight the urge to leave a little visible sheen on the pan. Into an oven set to 475 deg (why 475? Because I've now read of this type of seasoning being done successfully at 450 and 500, and I split the difference). ~25 minutes for the temp to get up, 1 hour once the temp got up, turned the oven off and then about 1.5 hours in the oven as it cooled. Sure enough, the first coat came back with a noticeable amber sheen. No stickiness.
I've repeated this process. Applying the fourth coat right now. So far so good. The surface is hard, growing darker, semi smooth. There are even pictures of each coat if anyone wants to see them, though it probably looks more or less like you'd expect it to (right now, I look for any excuse to learn to work my digital camera).
Will update further with results.
Thank you for posting these pictures. You are doing the exact same thing I am, at the exact same time!
I am a few coats ahead of you at the moment, I am losing count, but I think I am around coat #9. My pan still has a lot of brown showing. It hasn't gotten black as quickly as I had hoped. I would be interested to see additional pictures of your pans as you continue to season them to see how the darkening progresses. I really want deep black pan so I am going to keep playing with this until I achieve that.
I have also been wiping my oil 'dry' after applying it and I am tempted to leave a little more oil on it (just so it looks slightly wet). I was beginning to wonder if i was wiping away too much oil and that is why it isn't blackening as quickly as I'd expected.
As far as the rest of my methods: I also used sandpaper, but I sanded my pan by hand. It took a long time, but I am happy with the results. I also heat my pan to ~200 degrees before applying oil. Though I use olive or canola oil bc I have it on hand.
After applying oil I place the pan upside-down in the oven set at 300 degrees, wipe the oil down lightly with a cloth after 15 minutes, raise the temp to 375 and wipe again after 15 minutes. Then I increase the temp to 450 degrees for an hour. After an hour I shut off heat and leave the oven closed as it cools.
I guess it would be helpful of me to post a bit about the final results of this method. Here's how it went for me.
Results Part 1:
Basically, it didn't work as well as I had hoped it would. After 7 coats, the pan came out a slightly shiny off-black color. Seemed good to me, though obviously not the deep slick black of CI pans that have been in heavy use for decades. Looked fairly similar to the 'After 3 coats' pic I posted above, just a little darker. Still felt textured.
The first cooking test - a skin-on chicken breast that had been cooked sous vide and cooled (the SV cooking does seem to make sticking just a bit more likely, IME). Got the pan hot, added some oil, let the oil heat. That chicken stuck like I was cooking on stainless. Had to use a little water to clean off the pan, and the seasoning seemed a little lighter in color afterward.
With subsequent uses, the pan seems to be only marginally more non-stick than stainless. The good news is that the seasoning hasn't flaked off or further lightened. Since the pre-seasoning process, I have been adding a bit of bacon grease to the pan after use (avoiding water and soap, too) and allowing the seasoning to develop naturally. It has been very slow going, as I have been told it would. No obvious progress.
So why didn't it work? Why wasn't it more nonstick? I can only speculate. But here goes:
Possibility 1 - It was the additive to the oil made it impossible to create a seasoning
-- Honestly I doubt it. The oil polymerized easily, and the seasoning did not appear sticky or flaky or otherwise problematic - just not thick enough or not nonstick enough
P2 - The problem was that I sanded the pan down before starting
-- Doubt this as well. I also went off-recipe here, but I can't think of any reason that would cause the problem. I was very meticulous about cleaning the dust out of the pan after sanding, BTW
P3 - Too low temperature - not enough polymerization
-- Doubt this as well. Most of the smoke generated was early in the cooking process. No stickiness or greasiness noted after seasonings.
P4 - I started off with something that was bound to stick, didn't use quite enough oil, and then damaged the seasoning trying to clean the pan afterward, ensuring that the pan wouldn't be non stick for other foods either.
-- Tough one. I don't really know.
P5 - I had unrealistic expectations, This is meant to be a foundation for a more thorough seasoning that would only come with use.
-- Possible. Maybe some CH could let me know. But if this is the case, I'm don't really think the process is worth it. It was a lot of time and energy spent making a pan *slightly* more nonstick but still nowhere near teflon.
P6 - It just needed more coats
-- This is probably true. But best I could tell, it needed A LOT more coats. And I wasn't running through that process another 15 times or more.
So I'm sorry to report that I can't give this process a very strong recommendation. I didn't have some of the problems reported by others, but the whole thing wasn't all that effective for the time and effort spent. If anybody feels they have any insight as to what the problem was, please post it.
Results Part 2
We're not done yet. Like I said, I was becoming frustrated with the slow progress in developing a nonstick surface through use. But the seasoning process got me thinking - why is a wok seasoned on the stove while CI seems to always be seasoned in the oven? There are a few reasons, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it could be done with certain modifications. I mean, the traditional seasoning built up over years - that came from the stove, right?
This was starting to look more and more like a good idea, God help me. So I tried it tonight.
*DISCLAIMER* - this has been tested exactly once. It seems to carry an inherent risk for burns. Perhaps risk of fire. It also generates a lot of smoke which you then have to be around and, to some extent, inhale. It makes you smell bad. Attempt it at your own risk.
Step 1. Set up a fan or turn on your range exhaust. Get an oven mitt that allows you some dexterity. Clean the pan (I didn't do any elaborate scrubbing this time)
Step 2. Heat the CI pan on your widest burner. If you have a copper diffuser plate (i didn't), now is the time to use it. You want your pan quite hot, but not hottest you can possibly get it. Like you are searing a piece of tuna hot. Try your best to keep it at this temperature.
Step 3. Add a few drops of flax seed oil to one side of a paper towel folded over many times. Using the oven mitt, QUICKLY rub the oil all over the bottom of the pan in a very thin painting. The oil should smoke immediately. Application should take 5 seconds or so. If your pan is the right temperature, the paper towel will brown ever so slightly. If it is too hot, the paper towel will brown more deeply and can flake off bits of brown ask into the pan.
Step 4. After about a minute or two, when the smoke has subsided but not stopped, add oil to a different part of the paper towel and reapply all over the bottom of the pan.
Step 5. Repeat many times. I probably applied 40 or 50 coats over the coarse of 45 minutes. I'm not sure the last 10-20 made a big difference. Cool pan when done.
This developed a dark shiny surface on the middle of the pan, with a ring of lighter, less shiny surface about an inch thick at the outside of the pan bottom. I could feel the center of the pan getting much smoother as I went. It is now very smooth.
So far I fried 2 eggs. The first without any oil - it stuck. Honestly, eggs stick to teflon if you don't use any oil at all, so I always suspected that people who claim their CI pans cook eggs without oil aren't counting the oil they used to wipe their pan with after its last use. Results noted, but mostly discarded.
Second test was frying an egg in a bit of butter. The pan did beautifully. The egg slid around effortlessly just like a real nonstick pan. Further tests will follow, but not tonight.
So, at this early stage, here are my impressions of this sped up seasoning process
-Seems to season the middle of the pan better than the exterior. I suspect a larger burner would have helped. The egg didn't stick to the less-seasoned part, at least.
-The process is iffy, smoky, smelly, burny, etc, as the disclaimer notes above
-Can't tell yet if there will be un-anticipated problems
-I think it needs at least some oven seasoning first to get the sides of the pan. Don't know if it needs multiple coats or not
-Might create a true fully non-stick seasoning with about the time and effort it takes to make a risotto
-See directly above - that's all the pros it needs in my book.
Below are before and after pics.
Test number 2
I made an omelet. 4 eggs covered the entire pan surface, so I could test the whole pan. 1 Tablespoon of butter used.
Results- pretty decent. Minor sticking at the edges, but better than it was previously and not enough to mess up the omelet. Still got it out of the pan in one piece with nothing but the odd fleck of egg left in the pan. No sticking at all in the majority of the pan, the middle of it. Nonstick performance not quite equal to a brand new teflon pan, but at least comparable to one. Cleanup was easy and no seasoning came off.
At this point I'm going to call this method of seasoning a success. Of course that could change if the seasoning flakes off or something. I'll update if so.
I'm also thinking at this point that the Sherl Canter/Cooks Illustrated method picked a good oil, but may be too timid in their approach of either how little oil to use or (more likely) how long to heat the pan for each application - at least to get the most out of using flax seed oil. The upside of the oil is that it burns at low temp and polymerizes very easily, so I'm not sure why you'd want to keep each application in the oven for 2 hours. Maybe the first coat or two. After that, it seems the seasoning can be built up much more quickly without sticky or streaky results.
YMMV, of course. But I'm pretty happy with a new CI pan that seems years old and well broken in already.
I'm glad you had success with this method. It's funny that I've seasoned carbon steel pans using the cast iron (oven) method because I'm comfortable with it, but I never thought to do the opposite and stovetop-season CI. Thanks for posting your results. I think I'll try this method next time.
If you want to burn off the factory seasoning, you have four good options. Put it in the self-clean cycle, flame a propane torch over it, put the pan on a really hot BBQ grill, or put it on a really hot gas burner. Just heat it, til the seasoning stops smoking. Then do your own seasoning with lard, bacon fat, high-smoke-pont oil. I prefer heating enough to generate smoking, and then carbonizing, but you figure out what works best for you. Too hot, and you burn the carbon layer off.
Teflon (or out-of-patent PTFE) is good. (Julia and Jacques liked it.) Don't overheat it. Use soft utensils. It eventually gives out faster than metal surfaces, because it is plastic. It will not last as long as metal-surface pans. But for nonstick properties, when relatively "new", it's awesome. Just be willing to "retire" it much earlier than your all-metal pans.
I have all aluminum anodized surface pots and pans; ss surfaces with alu core stuff; ss surface alu and copper-core pots (All-Clad); cast iron stuff, carbon-steel woks; enameled-porcelain over cast iron stuff (Le Creuset and Staub), teflon-interior-surface over-aluminum. bottoms .. It is pretty much all good. I have some thin ss stock pots, on the range top, not so good, too much bottom burning, but in the oven, they are fine.
Thank you so much for your honest and detailed experience of Sheryl Canter's seasoning method. It helps to hear from real people in everyday life and whether or not something works. I too did about six seasoning methods using Ms Canter's flaxseed oil method, and was impressed by the color and sheen building up, but my first attempt at cooking on it killed it for me. I fried eggs, to give it a true test.... They stuck. I also felt that the scrubbing I had to do to get it off my pan took away a portion of the seasoning - All that time and work for nothing. It was depressing. Maybe I was expecting too much too fast. (FYI: I am using a brand new Lodge 12" pan that WAS factory pre-seasoned, but I un-seasoned it using the self-cleaning oven method - which works beautifully by the way. I'm allergic to soy which also throws my Thyroid into under-active mode, and Lodge uses Soy, "Vegetable", oil, so the stuff HAD to go.
After the egg frying experience, I ended up sanding down the inside of my pan with 80 grit belt sandpaper (didn't use the belt sander, just the sandpaper because it is extremely tough and thick stuff), and then hand sanded again with 120 grit belt sandpaper. This was the finest grit I had on hand, so I stopped there. I then washed my pan out really well, and dried it in the oven at 200°F for 15 minutes, removed it and poured the Flaxseed oil into the pan. I spread it around all over and let it sit for about 5 minutes to allow some to soak in. I wiped it down with a clean papertowel, but then felt that far too much oil had been removed (the pan seemed dry). I added a bit more Flaxseed oil, wiped it really well and put it in my oven. I turned it on, set at 550°F and set the oven to turn off in about 1 hr, 15 min.
Well, the pan is sitting in my oven now (turned off) going thru' the cooling process... and I got to thinking about your modified stovetop version of the Flaxseed seasoning. What if we took that same concept of repeated quick coatings, but did it in the oven with the pan laying upside down?.... Say, every 5 minutes or so? Maybe this would eliminate the uneven bottom-of-the-pan seasoning you said you experienced and still allow for a better, thicker, stronger seasoning that you also seemed to achieve on the stovetop. I think I will try it and let you know what happens. Any thoughts on why this may or may not be a good idea are welcome :)
"What if we took that same concept of repeated quick coatings, but did it in the oven with the pan laying upside down?.... Say, every 5 minutes or so?"
My main concern would be that the pan just wouldn't retain enough heat for the oil to burn off quickly after the first few coatings. But that's nothing more than me speculating.
"I think I will try it and let you know what happens."
Please do, and please do. Considering how much time (and fuel) it takes to apply six coatings using Canter's method, applying a few coatings in the manner you've described strikes me as a very worthwhile experiment. I think you'd be best off preheating the pan for a good while in the oven before starting to rapidly apply coats, keep the coats thin, and - obviously - be careful not to burn yourself. Hope it works well for you.
Today, I got around to trying out the oven quick coating idea, and the pan looks gorgeous, smooth & glossy. I want to allow it to completely cool and set until I cook on it however, so breakfast will be the tester experience - I can't wait.
This is what I did:
For starters, just pointing out to anyone who didn't read my earlier reply, I attempted Sheryl Canter's method of seasoning without the success I was hoping for - egg stuck to my pan and then took off some of the seasoning after I had just spent almost a week seasoning it.... Depressing. I then sanded down the inside of the pan with 80 & 120 grit belt sandpaper by hand, which of course removed the seasoning I had just done but also smoothed out the surface of the pan. I began to start over with the Sheryl Canter method, but after round 1 decided to change up the process (after reading cowboyardee's thoughts and modified seasoning attempt via the stovetop). So here's how it went down after that:
The next day (so pan had been completely cooled from round 1 of the original Sheryl Canter Flaxseed oil oven seasoning method), I heat the oven to 550°F and placed my sanded, naked, silver, new Lodge skillet in this inferno for 1 hour WITHOUT ANY OIL. Using Silicone pot holders, I removed the pan from the oven and spread about 1 Tablespoon of Flaxseed oil all over with a paper towel and set the timer for 1 minute then continued to just wipe the oil around for at least 30 seconds of that time. Once the 1 minute was up, I used a clean paper towel to wipe up the excess and placed the skillet back into the 550°F oven laying upside down. The timer was set for 5 minutes, and then the process repeated 11 more times. The last 2 times I did leave the pan right-side-up in the oven to make sure the top edges of the pan got some coverage - I had done a lot of sliding of the pan on the oven racks during the entire process with it face down (it was flippin hot!), and the top edges kept getting scraped. Also, I should note that about half way through it all I had to stop so that I could pick-up my son from football practice. So, the skillet was left in the oven longer than 5 minutes for that one round - It was left in for 18 minutes to be exact.
Cowboyardee's initial concern (and mine as well) of the pan possibly not retaining enough heat after the first few coats to burn down the oil quickly enough?............. Let me just say, that was NOT an issue. If anything, I was beginning to worry that the pan was far too hot. Oil was smoking the second I began to smear it around, and absorbing in really well. What I noticed tho' was that the skillet appeared to get hotter and hotter and hotter with each round. --- This, of course, led to the debated discussion with my 17 year old son as to whether or not a cast iron pan could actually retain and continue to absorb heat so that it becomes hotter than the oven temp --- I'm pretty sure it DID continue to get hotter. I finally had to resort to using tongs to hold the paper towels, and my silicone hot pads were starting to show burn marks if held onto the pan any longer than a few seconds at a time. I would also feel the heat through them almost immediately. Moving the pan had to be calculated, quick and cautious. Although my pan is not warped or seems weakened in any way, I can only hope that whatever ridiculous temperature that bad boy finally hit, it does not cause it's early demise =/.
From start to finish, if doing 12 coats (I know.... that does sound excessive, but I was on a roll), I would say it takes between 1 hour, 40 minutes to 2 hours depending on how quickly you move. I'm very happy with the esthetic result. The coat is slick, glossy, smooth, black (remember, it started out silver) and hard without any stickiness. There is a reddish hue when the light hits it which looks cool, but has me a bit concerned. When I think of red and cast iron, I think of "Red Rust" which not a good thing. I cannot see how this would be possible, however I am no scientist. I am wondering instead, if it has to do with some chemical response to how I seasoned it. I am also noticing that other people's photos of their seasoned skillets appear to have somewhat of a reddish hue as well, so who knows(?).
I've attached some photos so you can see what the end result was and will get back to you after I have actually cooked on it =). Oh, and by the way, yes this pan was cool and dry when I took the pictures.
I found this article from Sheryl Canter's site, that I was unaware of prior, and talks about Red and Black Rust, and seasoning cast iron. Very interesting, however she is also merely passing along info. given to her, so I can't claim it's validity. She also talks about heating the pan dry for an hour at high heat to beginning the process of "black rust" before seasoning (this is suppose to be good, I guess). I actually did this, and although my pan did come out black, there is an underlying reddish hue as I mentioned before. Still not sure about this, and reading her article has me kinda' worried.
Here's the link to Sheryl Canter's article on Black and Red Rust in seasoning cast iron:
Looking good. The sides of your pan are much glossier than mine got, so your variation seems to have some upsides.
About the dull red hue - that's not rust. Same thing happened with my pan, but unlike red rust, it didn't progress at all - it just got darker and more black the more I used the pan. I think the actual color of the 'black' polymerized seasoning is just a bit reddish. Normally, that's not something you can tell when you look at a seasoned CI pan because either the pan underneath is a bit black or there are many coatings. But since we both sanded down the pan before applying seasoning, the red hue comes through against the silvery bare cast iron. It will get darker in time. Don't worry about it. If your pan ever rusts, it will be pretty obvious.
Thanks for taking the time to post your results with pics. Also, if you can, please let me know how your pan is holding up after a few months' use.
Thanx Cowboyardee, that eases my rust-worry a lot.... and, Yeah, she sure looked pretty didn't she? =) .... But, it didn't work out the way I had hoped.
I had to leave town that afternoon that I last posted, so was unable to get to sharing the actual cooking results until now. What unfortunately happened is that the inside interior got really gummy when I fried some 15% ground beef in the pan, so the beef was really sticking to it. I started out with the pan good and hot as well as wiping a thin layer of palm oil over the bottom before beginning "just to be sure". I also attempted to fry some eggs after that with plenty of oil in the pan, but again the stickiness got worse. I scraped it down pretty well with my metal spatula and cooked bacon in it (uncured with no nitrates). There was still a tiny bit of gumminess happening here and there which I just kept scraping away, and occasionally the bacon would try to stick a bit to the pan even though it was then swimming in it's own grease - It wasn't horrible though and still better than stainless steel.
I had realized at some point early on that the gumminess was the seasoning coming up.... so the oil obviously didn't polymerize like I had hoped.
It is a possibility that I did not put my rounds of oil on thin or dry enough during my modified seasoning process as Sheryl Canter suggests. My wipes of oil were not leaving the pan looking almost "dry" as she describes how it should be. They were usually thin, yes, but looking "dry"?.... I don't think I could say that.
Another possibility is that there is a lot to be said about cooling the pan (slowly or otherwise). It just might be a sort of curing process that is necessary. But, as I have said before, I am not a scientist, so I haven't a clue.
In the end, I had to end up sort of sanding the bottom interior of the pan out and washing it really well a few times which took about 80-90% of the seasoning off. I wish now that I had taken a picture, but I was in such a hurry with so much to do before leaving town that I just didn't. The sanding removed all the rough edges and un-polymerized fat from the bottom to smooth it out and give me a solid base for season (in whatever fashion that meant at this point). The appearance after sanding was an even dis-colorization of black, a reddish color with the bare silver shade peaking through . Kind of like a granite counter-top has the different colors through-out but yet an evenness to it all. I honestly thru' my hands up to it all at this point, and thought I would just heat it in the oven for an hour to set that "Black Rust" that Sheryl Canter described and then just season it old school... each use, on the stove before cooking with it, then wiping it down and re-oiling it "dry" before storing the pan away until the next time. After I then left it in the oven (un-oiled) for an hour, it did blacken the reddish hue (I'm assuming this is the "black rust" Ms Canter mentions), and I have cooked with it a couple of times since then. I just make sure to oil the bottom well before beginning to cook.
This morning I made gluten-free pumpkin pancakes in the skillet, and they turned out beautifully. I was surprised at how well they absolutely did not stick (there was only 2 Tablespoons of Coconut oil in the whole batch of batter by the way), and the pan seemed to just retain the palm oil shortening that I oiled it with, without soaking in but ever-so-slightly or even the pancakes absorbing it. It was kind of odd to me really, but I certainly wasn't complaining. I then wiped it clean with paper towels when I was done, and spread around a very small amount of new palm oil shortening, wiping it completely "dry".
Returning to the skillet some 12 hours later, and it looks a bit more seasoned than when I started (from the last sanding). I decided to place it in the oven at 500°F for an hour again, and I will oil it again with palm oil shortening and just leave it in the oven to cool off I think.
My thought at this point is that there just might not be any rushing of the seasoning process. I REALLY hope this turns out to be false, but unless I try again (and wiping the oil absolutely dry this time) I just don't know....
By the way, I had been reading over and over again from others that the flax-seed oil seasoning looks great when done, but that it just doesn't hold up against the other oils during use. That it burns off far to easily, flakes, etc., etc., etc.. There seems to be such a wide gamete of opinion on this matter that is spoken as if the Bible, so who really knows. Personally, I am putting the Flaxseed aside at this time, and using mainly palm oil shortening and some bacon grease thrown in every now and again to prep it before cooking use each time. I've decided to not fret over it any more. This is not to say I won't "Black Rust" treat it every so often followed with one round of oven seasoning (with palm oil shortening) and then allow it to cool... when I've got a spare moment. But basically, I'm going to not worry about it, and just use my pan :)
Secretly, I sincerely hope someone can come up with something that sticks.... errr I mean slicks *lol*. And, knowing me.... I will likely attempt something again somewhere down the line, even tho' I said I'm not going to fret over it anymore ;)
In my experiance, if my seasoning is flaking off, the pan was too hot for too long. That is my suspicion with the Cantor method. I can bake off seasoning at 500 degrees. And the fact that flaxseed oil has a very low smoke point, would tell me that it would be easier to bake this off at such a temp. I also cannot fathom seasoning my cookware with an oil that I would not be suitable to cook with.
Seasoning layers that are gummy, means it has not been baked on long enough or maybe the oven was not hot enough or both. Having the oil too thick causes this too. Like putting on paint that is thick.
Also, I almost never turn my pans upside down to season. If that is neceassary, then the grease is to thick. A thin enough coat of grease or oil won't pool up anywhere.
All in all, I beleive to have an optimal CI cooking pan takes time. I don't believe it can be rushed and have the best results. Kinda like fine wine.;o) But unlike fine wine, CI can and should be used until you reach the optimal results. After all, that is exactly how you get there. And to stay at optimal, you just have to keep working with it and cooking with it. It is a an ever changing and on going process.
Thanx dixiegal for your insight - I am beginning to see the light and share your opinion that "an optimal CI cooking pan takes time".
As for placing the pan upside down, I only did that because I was told to. There wasn't any extra oil to drip what-so-ever, I was just following orders *lol*. As for the Flaxseed oil not being suitable to cook with, I wouldn't know. I really don't know much about the stuff. I DO know it's not going in my CI pan anymore. During the seasoning process, my oven was set at the highest it would go - 550°F (except for the self-cleaning mode that is next to Hell in temp.), and it certainly wasn't burning anything off, but it obviously didn't polymerize the fat as it should have either. You, and the countless others, that have brought up it's low smoking point as a potential problem may be on to something though, as the usual complaint I see with Flaxseed seasoning, is that during use (typically at higher heat), it tends to flake off...... which is exactly what I am seeing in excess now that I'm using it several times a day. So much so, that I am going to burn that Flaxseed thorn in my side to ash this evening in my oven's self-cleaning mode and just start fresh. I don't ever want to see that stuff anywhere near my CI again.... Ever.
I do not usually use excessive high heat in my cooking, so I am hoping that this flaking business in my future season does not come off as I am currently seeing. I am wondering how the "experts" are heating at high heat, however, to sear meats without destroying their seasoning if it does in fact cause the seasoning to flake.
In my last post, I mentioned that only the interior's bottom had gummed up and come off --- haha! Leave it to me to post too early (see previous posts). After continual use, the seasoning has been flaking off more and more.... including the interior's sides. I wasn't going to worry about it too much, just scrape it off with my spatula and keep going, but it's bad enough to where I see it actually needs to be removed completely *deep sigh*.
Here we go again - Square one - Naked pan.
>Here we go again - Square one - Naked pan<
Don't give up you will get it. The great thing about CI is you can always start over, the pan underneath the seasoning is fine.
I think too many folks want to make this seasoning method way to complicated and scientific. When all else fails, do what has been known to work for 100's of years, or even the last 75 years. Here in the south, lard was used until hydrogenated vegetable oil (aka Crisco) became available. Then some started cooking with that. To me, pork fat cannot be beat. Even though I rarely cook with pork fat, I do use it to season my CI. In times of old, here in the south, lard was used for everything. So the CI was constantly being seasoned with pork fat in the everyday cooking. For me, I use mostly grapeseed oil and coconut oil to cook with, so my pans do not get the seasoning layers as I cook, I wash my pans everytime I cook with them and reapply the lard and bake it on as needed.
I will say that many years ago when I began to saute and fry things in peanut oil, I got a very nice seasoning layer on my CI. But for heatlh reasons, I only use grapeseed, coconut or lard (that I refine myself to avoid the preservetives) to cook with. Oh and sometimes I will cook with genuine butter.
As for searing your meats. That isn't problem for me. I sear meats all the time without it hurting my seasoning layers. Searing is hot, but it is done quickly, so it doesn't damage the seasoning layers.
For me, using the lard or bacon grease baked on at 375 to 400 for a couple of hours works well. If I don't have2 hours, I might just do it for an hour, turn the oven off and pick up where I left off later. I often leave my newly seasoned pans in the oven while I bake something else. I also use metal spatulas and sometimes even SS scrub pads. Yes it wears into the seasoning layers, but it helps to smooth everything out.
After all, metal utensils was all those CI cooks before us had to use. Those old CI p[ans we love so much was seasoned with lard and used with metal utensils. They were used everyday and at least twice a day. Most everything was cooked in them. If we want our pans to work like those before us, then we need to use them like the CI cooks before us.
And no it does not take 20, 30, or 100s of years to get our new pans like the vintage ones. Those vintage pans have been the way they are now for many years. They became the CI that we admire today in less than a year of use by our ancestors that cooked with them.
Thanks for taking the time to write up your results, hismusicnme.
As far as the gummyness of the seasoning goes, I feel fairly confident that is the result of oil that is not fully polymerized onto the pan. It wasn't something I experienced when I initially seasoned my pan, but I did experience a little bit of gummyness in a later touch-up attempt on an older CI griddle pan, when poured small amounts of oil directly into the pan rather than spreading on a super thin layer with a paper towel. In your particular case, I suspect the way you added the oil - was probably the culprit, though the lower heat of the bottom of the pan in the oven *could* have also been a factor (the bottom interior of the pan is where it gets hottest on the stove, but also where it stays coolest in the oven).
You have touched upon one possible weakness that concerns me about using flax seed oil though - it has at times seemed to me that the seasoning doesn't stand up to high heat usage after the initial seasoning as well as the seasoning from other oils or fats. It's hard for me to say for sure, since I don't have another pan to compare it with directly. But the flax seed seasoning sometimes seems extra prone to damage at very high heat on the stovetop, like you might use to sear a steak (I sear very hot, sometimes in just-smoking safflower oil ... > 500 deg f ... sometimes dry and hotter still).
I'll continue to test this over time, but based on my results I feel confident saying that f;ax seed oil seasoning doesn't necessarily have to be gummy, even when applied quickly, as long as layers are applied thinly and the pan is hot enough to polymerize that thin layer quickly and fully.
Sooo.... I know I said I was done trying things, but.....
I got to thinking - What about Jojoba Oil? I know some folk are gonna freak over the mere suggestion of it, so before I continue let me state that my understanding is Jojoba oil IS ingestible, however NOT digestible (nor suggested that you should use it as a food). Apparently it will pass right through the human digestive system causing a sort of unpleasant laxative effect if enough of it is consumed. It is NOT toxic however and CAN be ingested, it's just not adviseable.
Here is what the company JOJOBA GOLD states about the oil/wax:
"Jojoba oil is pressed from bean of the jojoba plant (Simmondsia chinensis) - a desert shrub native to the Sonoran Desert of North America. Jojoba has been gathered and used by native Americans for centuries for its many uses and medicinal value. Jojoba is technically not an oil but a complex wax. Chemically, it is almost identically to human sebum - the oil in our skin that keeps it moist and supple. So, can I eat it? Jojoba Gold is non-toxic and can be safely ingested by humans and pets. But, because it is a wax and not a fat, our bodies cannot digest it. Instead, Ingested jojoba oil is eliminated directly with the stool - a very unpleasant condition called steattorhea. Therefore, jojoba oil is not edible and unsuitable as a food oil - we recommend you do not ingest it."
You may be wondering, "Why in the heck would this crazy lady use it for seasoning her CI then?!"
Well first of all, it would be used in such a small quantity AND (hopefully) polymerized into the CI that I honestly do not see it to be a problem. Even if and when some of it releases into the food, it IS safe, Not toxic, and highly unlikely to cause the laxative type effect with the minute amounts that might get into the food - I'm personally okay with that. I have even "Oil Pulled" with it before (that's a whole other subject) without any adverse affects of any kind.
Now.... My thoughts on why I even wanted to try it --- Jojoba oil is the only oil I know of (or in this case it's really an ester wax) that bares a single-strand cellular structure (as opposed to the typical tri-strand, or triglyceride, cell of other oils). In other words, it's skinny, string like form allows it to slip in and absorb into things better than the next guy. Also, Jojoba oil will tend to polymerize (so I read) in direct sunlight AND has an amazing shelf life; it takes a lot to make this stuff go rancid. I theorized that it's high absorption factor partnered with it's tendency to polymerize in direct light (heat?) and not decompose easily sounded like a great candidate for CI seasoning. I Googled the heck out of the subject of Jojoba oil and CI seasoning, but came up with nothing....
So I just decided I'd try it - No harm, no foul.
I spent a length of space explaining my choice of Jojoba, so I'll get straight to the "how":
My bare, naked, stripped CI skillet was placed in the oven and the temperature set @ 200°F. I let the dry pores of the pan open up in the oven for about 15 minutes, and then removed the skillet. At this point, I poured several drops of Jojoba oil into a custard cup and used a silicone basting brush to brush the oil all over the pan. I let it sit for a minute or two, and then WIPED IT VERY DRY with a paper towel. I placed the skillet back into the oven RIGHT SIDE UP (not upside down) and set the oven temp @ 475°F and the timer for about 1-1/2 hours. I deduced that although Sheryl Canter says to set our oven as high as it will go for the Flaxseed oil process, she herself only set her oven @ 475°F (because that's as high as hers would go). I decided to not mess with this part of what seemed to work for her and follow suit. Once time was up, I simply turned off the oven and allowed the pan to cool in the oven AT LEAST several hours. I did this process 7 times total in about 5 days.
Once the seasoning process was complete and absolutely cooled, I cooked uncured thick bacon, fried some eggs, and sauteed chopped zucchini and ground beef....
WITHOUT ANY GUMMINESS OR FOOD FUSING TO THE SKILLET!!
WHOO - HOO!!!
What's more --- THE SEASONING ON MY PAN LOOKS UNSCATHED after all that AND I was scraping away the whole time with a metal spatula!! I seriously wanted to do the happy dance.
I DID oil the pan some before using it and will continue to do so for awhile until it gets that great weathered gloss that can only happen with time. My last two seasoning attempts, however did not survive the frying and cooking use (even with globs of oil) OR my metal spatula (see pictures above of that destruction), so I'm ABSOLUTELY ELATED.
I LOVE THE WAY FOOD COOKS ON THIS PAN NOW - I'm so glad I tried this - NO REGRETS! =)
Unfortunately my daughter left with the camera which has the new pictures I took, so I'll post those when I can get to them. I just couldn't wait to share the success (FINALLY) and good news.
Oh do keep us updated on the jojoba oil seasoning thing. I LOVE experiments. (and I am familiar with 'oil pulling', except I did it with coconut oil)
For me I am tired of experimenting with seasoning my CI with different types of oil. I am now redoing my dutch oven where I completely botched it up using the high heat of the Cantor method. I also did not have good results with coconut oil either. So I am sticking with what I know works for me, but I very much enjoy reading others adventures in CI seasoning and cooking.
Well, my daughter has taken off with her nice camera... for 5 weeks, but I won't make you wait that long for those pics I promised.
Instead, I snapped these with only a 5mp Android phone, but you'll get the idea anyway. These were taken today 7/10/12 which is 14 days after my last seasoning session that I wrote about just above.
I use this pan almost daily and oil it down before every use (not slathered, just very thinly oiled). I always use a metal spatula while cooking so I can scrape the pan surface down smooth over time. To clean it, I simply wipe the skillet out with a paper towel and sometimes put a few more drops of oil in, and wipe it up as dry as I can get it.
After finally seasoning this skillet correctly, it has turned out to be the best pan I've purchased in years. =J
cowboyardee, thanks for sharing your method of seasoning. I took your idea and did a hybrid of sorts. I started with two oven-baked coats of flaxseed oil. For the third coat I used lard in the oven. After that I cooked up some bacon. Fourth coat was flaxseed with a mixture of the bacon grease leftover, again oven baked.
At this point I felt the color was sufficiently dark all around. I then proceed to do about 30 minutes worth of stovetop seasoning with flaxseed oil per the method you described. I too got that nice shiny "non-stick performance zone" in the middle of the pan. After that, I then put on one more coat of lard to bake in the oven.
The net result is a beautifully slick pan that appears to have a very durable seasoning. Fried eggs slide around the pan. Clean up is super easy. The overall performance is much better than the factory seasoning. Thanks again!
If I understand this correctly, factory "seasoning" is just a light coat of vegetable oil placed on the pan to prevent rust. I don't know why anyone would worry about it. Just start using it with some added oil, or scrub it off. Whatever suits you should do the trick.
Its just a light coat of oil folks!
The factory seasoning is indeed cooked on - it's not just a bare CI pan smeared with oil.
That said, I'm not sure why people being 'worried' about it the factory seasoning baffles you. This thread is about trying to get a fully non-stick surface on a new CI pan in as little time as possible - trying to make a new skillet mimic a pan that's been used and maintained well for years. If that doesn't interest you, suit yourself.
"If the preseasoning has been baked on it, then it should simply be the first coat of seasoning, to be added to, no?"
In my particular case, I was also concerned with trying to remove anything I had burned onto the pan by that point - I didn't season the pan when it was brand new, but used it to try out the factory seasoning for a bit before making this thread. I didn't want any burnt-on traces of egg and bacon to make the new seasoning flake off.
As to the more general question of whether to do anything about the factory seasoning in a brand new pan - that depends on your school of thought. I've heard enough complaints about the lodge seasoning flaking off that my thinking was that it's arguably safest to start from a bare, clean, and dry pan. Maybe Lodge doesn't clean the pan as well as they might before applying seasoning? I'm speculating. Of course it seems plenty of people have experienced no flaking, so perhaps I erred a bit far on the side of caution there. But for me an even bigger reason to sand the pan down as I did is that the Lodge pans have a very rough surface, and sanding comes with the added benefit of smoothing em out a little.
I wouldn't say that someone who leaves the factory seasoning on and then seasons on top of that is doing anything wrong. But if you have the equipment handy, sanding isn't a terrible strategy IMO.
UPDATE: On June 26, 2012, I posted about FINALLY having success by season with Jojoba Oil. I just want to say that Jojoba Oil still rocks & now have proof that it soars above everything else (and I have tried everything believe me). I kept wiping a thin layer onto my skillet after each use, and even fried egg would slide around.
BUT THEN.... I had run out of Jojoba oil and decided not to worry about it at that point sense I obviously had a great seasoning already. I was mainly using bacon grease (without nitrates) but would occasionally also use other oils. Then my family began having the problem of eggs sticking.... no matter what we did! I couldn't figure it out and finally asked myself why this was happening now? What is different that might cause this?...... Then it hit me - JOJOBA OIL!
Well, I've reseasoned my pan with Jojoba oil and all is well once again.
This update is long overdue actually. As I wrote above, I first tried the basic flaxseed oil oven-based method, and was disappointed that the surface wasn't more non-stick for all the work I put in. I then used flaxseed oil to season the semi-seasoned pan on the stovetop. I was quite happy with the fully non-stick surface, and the fact that it took much less time.
Since then, I've experienced what seems to be a common problem with flaxseed oil - much of the seasoning flaked off. I can't say for sure whether this was due to error on my part (either the stove-top method, or perhaps exposing the pan to higher heat than is wise for a seasoned pan). But since others have had the same issue, my guess is that flaxseed oil has a high tendency to flake over time. As such I don't recommend flaxseed oil despite its other advantages.
So now I'm finally getting around to doing something about it. I sanded down my pan (again) and I'm going to start seasoning it with jojoba oil. First coat will be cooked on in the oven. Second coat... we'll see.
Thanks to hismusicnme for the jojoba oil suggestion. If anyone reading this has used jojoba oil and has any longer term feedback on its performance, I would be happy to read about it.
I've seasoned my pan with jojoba oil. I started with a super thin layer applied with a paper towel, and then baked it in the oven at 500 for about 1.5 hours. Repeated that a few times, and then did the same, except I began taking the hot pan out of the oven and (carefully) applying another thin layer to cook on for 20 minutes or so before repeating. All told, I probably applied around 15 thin coats.
- Looks very good. Black, even, slightly shiny when dry. Still a rough surface (as per Lodge's finishing), but no soft spots, flaking spots, or pooled uneven seasoning.
- Cooked an egg in a little butter. Non-stick properties simply aren't there yet. The pan cleaned up easily, but eggs did not slide around as they would in a teflon pan (or as they did after applying MANY coats of flax seed oil).
- Needs further testing, but it appears to me that jojoba seasoning might be a little more tolerant of high heat than flax seed seasoning. No smoke at temperatures where the pan would have been smoking previously. Hard to say for certain though.
So now... what to do. I could quickly apply many more coats to try to go fully non-stick and see how that surface holds up. Or I could cook on it for a few weeks and see if there is any quick improvement. I'm leaning toward the latter.
*I realize that I could have had a fully non-stick pan by now, just by following traditional advice. This is an experiment. I still think there should be a way to make a teflon-slick surface that is both durable and fast to build up.
Yes, but not the kind of results that will be particularly useful to others.
Essentially, after the last post, I tried one more time to apply a whole bunch of coats quickly. Preheated the pan in the oven to 500 and then placed it on a stove burner and applied maybe 15 more coats in rapid sequence with a paper towel there.
The pan still wasn't as non-stick as I'd like. Also problematic - my tests of non-stickiness were hurting the seasoning. I'd fry up a few eggs, and they'd stick hard in some places, so I'd clean the pan with a green scouring pad and water, which would noticeably thin the seasoning. I'd apply another quick layer of jojoba oil on the stovetop, repeat, have to scour, and thin the seasoning even more. This was the first couple weeks after my last post. Also tried a bit of crisco in the oven one time, though that made the coating itself kind of tacky.
So basically, I wound up putting the pan on lighter duty and avoiding sticky foods for a while. Sauteed meats and vegetables, did the occasional stirfry, etc. Avoided anything that would make me scrub the pan. And if the pan did need a bit of scrubbing, I would just heat it up just a bit, pour a few drops of oil (usually canola) in the pan and scrape with a spatula/wipe with a paper towel until it was smooth.
A couple months later, my pan is behaving very well. Coating is smooth and slick, no signs of damage. Nothing is sticking - cooked up a bunch of scrambled eggs last night and the pan wiped clean easily. I still have the jojoba oil, but I'm not using it since the pan is performing well without it.
I guess my takeaway message is that the traditional methods of creating a non-stick surface (treating the pan gently, cooking fatty foods that aren't prone to sticking) seem to work quite well. And it's not necessary to use a pan for years to get good results.
I know from early experiments that you CAN make a truly non-stick coating very quickly by applying many layers of flax seed oil. But that seemed to cause durability problems and high heat intolerance that my pan now doesn't seem to have. I suspect that there might be some way to quickly make a fully non-stick and durable coating very quickly, but in the end I just ran out of patience trying. Perhaps some mixed method creating a base with some more durable oil, finishing with a light coating or two of flax.
I also tend to think that if you're going for the more traditional method of seasoning the pan by using it, then it doesn't matter very much how you put the first few layers on, as long as those layers are durable. I don't recommend the Canter method, but flax might be useful in another method. Jojoba oil seasoned onto a pan very easily and quickly, which is useful, but it wasn't the magic bullet I was hoping.